Santigold’s debut made a genuine impact. Diplo, Switch and M.I.A. had already paved the way for a genre-bending explosion, but the world was waiting for a bold individual to stride in and take the next step. “L.E.S. Artistes” was perfect; a great hipster-rallying cry that united Pitchfork readers and pop fans behind its stirring chorus. The album that followed, Santigold, was spotty but undeniably exciting. Since then however, pop has had its fill of innovation to the point where Cher Lloyd can top the charts a single as head scratchingly barmy as “Swagger Jagger”.
It’s safe to say that while Santigold isn’t quite passé, she’s certainly not straddling the cutting edge. Sadly, far from a timely reminder of her talents or a fearsome adrenaline rush Master Of My Make-Believe feels anesthetized. Santigold is happy singing gently in the middle ground without any of Ladyhawke’s vocal punch. “The Keepers” typifies Santigold’s new approach. Riding a polyrhythm and soaring 80s synth pop structure the track feels gentrified, sedate, and utterly dispassionate. Subtle disco perhaps, but it has been done better. The skipping patois of “Look At These Hoes” is so restrained you wonder if Santigold had to carefully sneak into the studio late at night and was hoping that if she sung softly enough M.I.A., Nicki Minaj and A$AP Rocky might not notice their swag being jacked.
Master Of Make-Believe may disappoint in terms of attitude and edge but it is supremely constructed. Far more consistent than her debut, the slick beats and pleasing verses stack up, making for an incredibly swift and easy listen. Frustratingly, this smooth LP starts with the unavoidable tribal banger “GO!” and denies the listener another explosion of unhinged energy and charisma until the very last, by that point not even the sensational “Big Mouth” can elevate this middling effort. David Hayter